Friday marked the official kickoff of President Biden’s re-election campaign but it’s only First Lady Jill Biden granting interviews so far in 2024.
It was announced that the presidential spouse would sit down with MSNBC’s Mika Brzezinski to discuss her “life, career and the pivotal year ahead” at a White House event this week. The liberal “Morning Joe” co-host will likely not subjugate her to an intense grilling, following the pattern of friendly interviews her husband’s White House has green-lit in recent months.
DePauw University professor and media critic Jeffrey McCall says it’s a “miscalculation” for Team Biden to make the first lady a campaign surrogate, at least one with a heavier media presence than the candidate himself.
“Voters can surely infer she is only doing the interviews because the president can’t or won’t,” McCall told Fox News Digital.
The last news platform that landed a Biden interview was the Oct. 15 installment of “60 Minutes” with CBS correspondent Scott Pelley, primarily focusing on the president’s reaction to the Hamas attacks against Israel that occurred days prior.
Some of the questions he posed to the president include “Why do you feel so strongly about speaking to these families [of American hostages in Gaza] personally on Zoom?,” “Is getting the American hostages back safely among your highest priorities now?,” “Does the dysfunction that we’ve seen in Congress increase the danger in the world?” and “Why do you feel so strongly? What does Israel mean to you?”
The “60 Minutes” interview was panned by Biden’s potential 2024 opponent former President Trump, who wrote on Truth Social that CBS News “led him along like a lost child.”
“Each question contained the answer, and was so weakly and apologetically asked that it was a JOKE which should be considered a campaign contribution to the Democrat Party,” Trump exclaimed.
Since “60 Minutes,” Biden granted interviews with Spanish radio host Tony Arias, CNN’s Anderson Cooper on his podcast about grief and comedian Conan O’Brien. He also briefly spoke with NBC’s Al Roker during the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade by phone, as well as Ryan Seacrest during ABC’s New Years Eve broadcast, both alongside the first lady.
“Joe Biden appears ready to run the same campaign in 2024 that he ran in 2020 – the so-called ‘basement strategy’: Don’t interact at all in uncontrolled situations, limit yourself to subservient media, and make the election about Donald Trump,” Cornell Law School professor and media critic William A. Jacobson told Fox News Digital. “Biden staying in the ‘basement’ keeps the media focus on Trump. Whatever downside there may be to the basement strategy, it’s the best strategy Biden has.”
Perhaps the last time Biden faced hard-hitting questions in an interview setting was back in February 2023 when he was grilled by PBS NewsHour’s Judy Woodruff and ABC’s David Muir about his classified documents scandal in a pair of sit-downs. What followed was a string of friendly interviews that included “The Daily Show” guest host (and former Obama aide) Kal Penn, Roker, MSNBC’s Stephanie Ruhle and Nicolle Wallace, CNN’s Fareed Zakaria, British wellness podcast host Jay Shatt, The Weather Channel’s Stephanie Abrams and ProPublica’s John Harwood.
According to data from UC Santa Barbara’s American Presidency Project, both Biden and Trump were outpaced by former President Obama who, in the same time frame during his presidency, granted over 20 interviews to several news organizations, including Fox News.
Biden has held fewer press conferences than any modern president, averaging 11 per year so far, roughly half of Trump’s 22 average and Obama’s 20 (per the American Presidency Project).
When he holds a solo press conference, he calls from a list of reporters pre-selected by his staff, rarely taking questions from anyone else. And during joint press conferences with other world leaders, Biden only calls on two pre-selected American reporters, in addition to the two foreign reporters who are also able to ask both leaders questions.
The White House has repeatedly rejected the notion that he limits access to the press, pointing to how he takes shouted questions from reporters on a regular basis. But that will likely not pass muster among his critics.
“It seems to me the press should start getting louder about lack of access to the president,” McCall told Fox News Digital. “For all the talk about threats to democracy, having a president who is inaccessible to the press and the citizenry is also rather undemocratic.”
The White House didn’t respond to a request for comment.